Education

Education

Art After the Internet in the Anthropocene

 

Precarity, Post-Studio, Social Practice, Biennialization, Archives, Ecological Thinking, Proxy Politics, Shamanism, Mondialite, Memes, Mass Extinction and the Dissolution of the Neoliberal Subject.

 
 
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If all things in the world can be considered as sources of aesthetic experience, then art no longer holds a privileged position.
— Boris Groys
 

This is an open and evolving curriculum / experiment. In this version, it’s organized into 5 sections that could be taught in installments over various durations. One preferred model is a roving format with discursive meetings in different locations and intermittent visits to related art happenings and exhibitions throughout. This also serves as a curated archive, a response to the persistent need to recuperate and present constellations of media from the Valley of Disinterest.

Interspersed throughout are interludes with artists and concepts that exist in the spaces between.

Overview:

Section 1 - The Anthropocene, Chthulucene, Capitalocene and Aesthetics
Section 2 - Neoliberalism, Precarization, Biennialization and Duty Free Art
Section 3 - The Internet, Clouds and Cubes, AI and the New Dark Ages
Section 4 - The Social Turn, Institutional Critique, Relations over Objects, Cyber Shamanism and Alternative Imaginaries
Section 5 - Artist as Pollinator; Artists as Vector; Artist as Archivist; Collapsing the Artist / Curator Binary; Flat Ontologies; The Valley of Disinterest; Little a art

 

 

Section 1 - The Anthropocene, Chthulucene, Capitalocene and Aesthetics

Marxist, Feminist and Poststructuralist inflected explorations of the Anthropocene interspersed with artists engaging these themes.

Engaging the work of Donna Haraway, Pierre Huyghe, Timothy Morton, Anna Tsing, Anicka Yi, Raj Patel, Adrian Villar Rojas. Ursula K. Le Guin, Carla Freccero, Anne Pringle and others.

 
 
 
 
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Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet
Ghosts and Monsters of the Anthropocene
2017 Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing, Heather Anne Swanson, Elaine Gan, and Nils Bubandt, Editors

Can humans and other species continue to inhabit the earth together?
As human-induced environmental change threatens multispecies livability, Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet puts forward a bold proposal: entangled histories, situated narratives, and thick descriptions offer urgent “arts of living.” Included are essays by scholars in anthropology, ecology, science studies, art, literature, and bioinformatics who posit critical and creative tools for collaborative survival in a more-than-human Anthropocene.

Living on a damaged planet challenges who we are and where we live. This timely anthology calls on twenty eminent humanists and scientists to revitalize curiosity, observation, and transdisciplinary conversation about life on earth.

As human-induced environmental change threatens multispecies livability, Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet puts forward a bold proposal: entangled histories, situated narratives, and thick descriptions offer urgent “arts of living.” Included are essays by scholars in anthropology, ecology, science studies, art, literature, and bioinformatics who posit critical and creative tools for collaborative survival in a more-than-human Anthropocene. The essays are organized around two key figures that also serve as the publication’s two openings: Ghosts, or landscapes haunted by the violences of modernity; and Monsters, or interspecies and intraspecies sociality. Ghosts and Monsters are tentacular, windy, and arboreal arts that invite readers to encounter ants, lichen, rocks, electrons, flying foxes, salmon, chestnut trees, mud volcanoes, border zones, graves, radioactive waste—in short, the wonders and terrors of an unintended epoch.

Contributors: Karen Barad, U of California, Santa Cruz; Kate Brown, U of Maryland, Baltimore; Carla Freccero, U of California, Santa Cruz; Peter Funch, Aarhus U; Scott F. Gilbert, Swarthmore College; Deborah M. Gordon, Stanford U; Donna J. Haraway, U of California, Santa Cruz; Andreas Hejnol, U of Bergen, Norway; Ursula K. Le Guin; Marianne Elisabeth Lien, U of Oslo; Andrew Mathews, U of California, Santa Cruz; Margaret McFall-Ngai, U of Hawaii, Manoa; Ingrid M. Parker, U of California, Santa Cruz; Mary Louise Pratt, NYU; Anne Pringle, U of Wisconsin, Madison; Deborah Bird Rose, U of New South Wales, Sydney; Dorion Sagan; Lesley Stern, U of California, San Diego; Jens-Christian Svenning, Aarhus U.

 

 

interlude

 
 

 

Section 2 - Neoliberalism, Precarization, Biennialization and Duty Free Art

Understanding the basic tenants of Neoliberalism, artificial scarcity, rapacious capitalism and staggering inequality. The primary determinate of our social and artistic relations and the ways in which art is instrumentalized under the Neoliberal rubric.

Engaging the work of George Monbiot, Wendy Brown, Manthia Diawara, Edouard Glissant, Isaac Julien, Keller Easterling, Hito Steyerl and Maria Hlavajova and others.

 
 
 
 

Hito Steyerl - Duty Free Art (Full Article)

Let me give you a contemporary example: freeport art storage.

This is the mother of all freeport art storage spaces: Geneva freeport, a tax-free zone in Geneva that includes parts of an old freight station and an industrial storage building. The free-trade zone takes up the backyard and the fourth floor of the old storage building, so that different jurisdictions run through one and the same building, as the other floors are set outside the freeport zone. A new art storage space was opened last year. Up until only a few years ago, the freeport wasn’t even officially considered part of Switzerland.

This building is rumored to house thousands of Picassos, but no one knows an exact number since documentation is rather opaque. There is little doubt though that its contents could compete with any very large museum.14

Let’s assume that this is one of the most important art spaces in the world right now. It is not only not public, but it is also sitting inside a very interesting geography.

From a legal standpoint, freeport art storage spaces are somewhat extraterritorial. Some are located in the transit zones of airports or in tax-free zones. Keller Easterling describes the free zone as a “fenced enclave for warehousing.”15 It has now become a primary organ of global urbanism copied and pasted to locations worldwide. It is an example of “extrastatecraft,” as Easterling terms it, within a “mongrel form of exception” beyond the laws of the nation-state. In this deregulatory state of exemption, corporations are privileged at the expense of common citizens, “investors” replace taxpayers, and modules supplant buildings:

[Freeports’] attractions are similar to those offered by offshore financial centres: security and confidentiality, not much scrutiny … and an array of tax advantages … Goods in freeports are technically in transit, even if in reality the ports are used more and more as permanent homes for accumulated wealth.16

The freeport is thus a zone for permanent transit.

 

 

interlude

 
 
 

 

Section 3 - The Internet, Clouds and Cubes, AI and the New Dark Ages

The production side of clouds and the devices from which they’re accessed. The rise of positivism, big data and the ideologies which govern our internet. How art institutions respond to the technologies and implications of the internet.

Engaging the work of Kate Crawford, Vladan Joler, Oliver Laric, Hito Steyerl, Ryan Trecartin and Lizzie Fitch, James Bridle, Martine Syms, Trevor Paglen, Harun Farocki and others.

 

Anatomy of an AI System

The Amazon Echo as an anatomical map of human labor, data and planetary resources

By Kate Crawford 1 and Vladan Joler 2 
(2018)

A cylinder sits in a room. It is impassive, smooth, simple and small. It stands 14.8cm high, with a single blue-green circular light that traces around its upper rim. It is silently attending. A woman walks into the room, carrying a sleeping child in her arms, and she addresses the cylinder.

‘Alexa, turn on the hall lights’

The cylinder springs into life. ‘OK.’ The room lights up. The woman makes a faint nodding gesture, and carries the child upstairs.

This is an interaction with Amazon’s Echo device. 3 A brief command and a response is the most common form of engagement with this consumer voice-enabled AI device. But in this fleeting moment of interaction, a vast matrix of capacities is invoked: interlaced chains of resource extraction, human labor and algorithmic processing across networks of mining, logistics, distribution, prediction and optimization. The scale of this system is almost beyond human imagining. How can we begin to see it, to grasp its immensity and complexity as a connected form? We start with an outline: an exploded view of a planetary system across three stages of birth, life and death, accompanied by an essay in 21 parts. Together, this becomes an anatomical map of a single AI system.

The Salar, the world's largest flat surface, is located in southwest Bolivia at an altitude of 3,656 meters above sea level. It is a high plateau, covered by a few meters of salt crust which are exceptionally rich in lithium, containing 50% to 70% of the world's lithium reserves. 4 The Salar, alongside the neighboring Atacama regions in Chile and Argentina, are major sites for lithium extraction. This soft, silvery metal is currently used to power mobile connected devices, as a crucial material used for the production of lithium-Ion batteries. It is known as ‘grey gold.’ Smartphone batteries, for example, usually have less than eight grams of this material. 5Each Tesla car needs approximately seven kilograms of lithium for its battery pack. 6 All these batteries have a limited lifespan, and once consumed they are thrown away as waste. Amazon reminds users that they cannot open up and repair their Echo, because this will void the warranty. The Amazon Echo is wall-powered, and also has a mobile battery base. This also has a limited lifespan and then must be thrown away as waste.

According to the Aymara legends about the creation of Bolivia, the volcanic mountains of the Andean plateau were creations of tragedy. 7 Long ago, when the volcanos were alive and roaming the plains freely, Tunupa - the only female volcano – gave birth to a baby. Stricken by jealousy, the male volcanos stole her baby and banished it to a distant location. The gods punished the volcanos by pinning them all to the Earth. Grieving for the child that she could no longer reach, Tunupa wept deeply. Her tears and breast milk combined to create a giant salt lake: Salar de Uyuni. As Liam Young and Kate Davies observe, “your smart-phone runs on the tears and breast milk of a volcano. This landscape is connected to everywhere on the planet via the phones in our pockets; linked to each of us by invisible threads of commerce, science, politics and power.” 8

FULL ESSAY

 

Oliver Laric, Versions

 
 

Hito Steyerl Proxy Politics (Full Article)

Noise and Information

But let’s come back to the question in the beginning: What are the social and political algorithms that clear noise from information? The emphasis, again, is on politics, not algorithm. Jacques Rancière has beautifully shown that this division corresponds to a much older social formula: to distinguish between noise and speech to divide a crowd between citizens and rabble.15 If someone didn’t want to take someone else seriously, or to limit their rights and status, one pretends that their speech is just noise, garbled groaning, or crying, and that they themselves must be devoid of reason—and therefore exempt from being subjects, let alone holders of rights. In other words, this politics rests on an act of conscious decoding—separating “noise” from “information,” “speech” from “groan,” or “face” from “butt,” and from there neatly stacks its results into vertical class hierarchies.16 The algorithms now being fed into smartphone camera technology to define the image prior to its emergence are similar to this.

 
 
 

Trevor Paglen Invisible Images (Full Article)

We’ve gotten pretty good at understanding the vagaries of human vision; the serpentine ways in which images infiltrate and influence culture, their tenuous relationships to everyday life and truth, the means by which they’re harnessed to serve–and resist–power. The theoretical concepts we use to analyze classical visual culture are robust: representation, meaning, spectacle, semiosis, mimesis, and all the rest. For centuries these concepts have helped us to navigate the workings of classical visual culture.

But over the last decade or so, something dramatic has happened. Visual culture has changed form. It has become detached from human eyes and has largely become invisible. Human visual culture has become a special case of vision, an exception to the rule. The overwhelming majority of images are now made by machines for other machines, with humans rarely in the loop. The advent of machine-to-machine seeing has been barely noticed at large, and poorly understood by those of us who’ve begun to notice the tectonic shift invisibly taking place before our very eyes.

 
 

Hito Steyerl - International Disco Latin (Full Article)

No gallery in Salvador da Bahia, no project space in Cairo, no institution in Zagreb can opt out of the English language. And language is and has always been a tool of Empire. For a native speaker, English is a resource, a guarantee of universal access to employment in countless places around the globe. Art institutions, universities, colleges, festivals, biennales, publications, and galleries will usually have American and British native speakers on their staff. Clearly, as with any other resource, access needs to be restricted in order to protect and perpetuate privilege. Interns and assistants the world over must be told that their domestic—and most likely public—education simply won’t do. The only way to shake off the shackles of your insufferable foreign origins is to attend Columbia or Cornell, where you might learn to speak impeccable English—untainted by any foreign accent or non-native syntax. And after a couple of graduate programs where you pay $34,740 annually for tuition, you just might be able to find yet another internship.

 
 

 

interlude

 
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Section 4 - The Social Turn, Institutional Critique, Relations over Objects, Cyber Shamanism and Alternative Imaginaries

An exploration of social practice, it’s many names and implications as a response to the conditions of art and alienation. I use the word shamanism here to gesture towards artists using combinations of ritual and supporting technology to move people into a heightened state, often in ways which heal, teach or connect. There is an egoic loosening which occurs, towards the dissolution of the alienated neoliberal subject. The context, setting and group dynamics is what’s of importance, creating temporary spaces of alternative imaginaries.

Engaging the work of Claire Bishop, Oda Projesi, Maria Lind, Thomas Hirschhorn, Total Freedom, Amy Franceschini / futurefarmers, Cecilia Vicuña, Creative Time, Phil Collins, and Jayson Musson / Hennessy Youngman.

 
 
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Actualisation of Space: The Case of Oda Projesi

Maria Lind

A long, high-ceilinged room with small trees in boxes in the middle. The walls are punctuated by doors and windows, on all three storeys of the building. Here and there shoes are outside the doors and you glimpse curtains through the windows. One or two pushchairs are parked beside the shoes. Daylight floods the space through a glass ceiling and also filters it through the glass on the short sides of the room. If it weren't for the shoes and the pushchairs you might think of a hospital, or even an American-style prison. In the middle of the room a group of men play Turkish music on instruments, others dance. A little girl, dressed in yellow, attracts attention to herself as she dances an elegant solo. Tinkles of laughter. Suddenly a roll of paper is dropped from a balcony, winding down like a great snake, and some children begin to draw on it.

The location is a passage and a gathering place in Galeriahaus, a block of flats in Messestadt Riem in the outskirts of Munich. The occasion is one of many modest events that Oda Projesi organised during their visit there in spring 2003. Just as the name indicates ('oda' means room/space and 'projesi' project in Turkish), the point of departure of Oda Projesi's work is space; how one can create and recreate different places and spatial situations through using them in a number of different ways. For example, how, together with various groups of people, can you find new functions for a public space such as a square? Or an empty space in a flat? Or an architect-designed passage like the atrium in Galeriahaus, which was closed by the authorities to non-residents and forbidden as a play area?

The three artists, Özge Acikkol, Gunes Savas and Secil Yersel, have been working together since 1997. They began by taking advantage of the possibilities offered by the public spaces in their hometown, Istanbul, by doing workshops together with groups of children, where they drew, painted and then exhibited their works on site.[1] In 2000 they adopted the name Oda Projesi and rented a three-room flat in Galata, the same district where they started their workshops. At that time still an 'ungentrified' quarter of Istanbul, Galata lies near the famous pedestrian street, Istiklal, and an entertainment district where many immigrants from Turkey's eastern regions arrive when they first come to the city. The streets are narrow, courtyards small and street life lively and crowded.[2] However, none of the artists live in the flat, which functions as a meeting place for neighbours and simultaneously as a platform for the projects, inside and outside its walls, which are generated in cooperation with the people of the district and others.

LINK TO FULL ESSAY

 
 
 
 

How Total Freedoms Devastating DJ Sets Changed Club Music
Eugene Carolus

For bodies marked by “otherness”, clubs as functional spaces are at once oppressive and liberating. For over a decade, Miami–based artist and DJ Ashland Mines has exploited that dichotomy, disrupting the linearity of club sets under his Total Freedom moniker to often devastating effect. This talent for compressing club atmospheres before working crowds into an almost religious catharsis has elevated Mines to a mythologised status across various creative networks and nodes of underground subculture. And as a true artists’ artist, Mines’ disruptive ethos echoes through a collaborative network of contemporaries shaking up the zeitgeist from the margins of popular culture.

Mines traces his gravitation towards the discomforting and grotesque to an unorthodox upbringing in the woodlands of New Jersey. “We were freaks no matter which angle you look at it from,” Mines recalls about the realities of being an affluent black family in active Klansmen country. “I was raised with a very clear impression and constant reminders that I was an outsider.”

It is with this spatial awareness that Mines would find a kinship with similar artists on the fringes of Los Angeles’ creative scene years later. Together with close friends and collaborators Wu Tsang and NGUZUNGUZU’s Asma Maroof and Daniel Pineda, Mines co–created Wildness in 2008, a clubnight in downtown Los Angeles’ The Silver Platter. The party pulled into its orbit Los Angeles’ overlapping immigrant, transgender and arts communities during its brief but formative two-year lifetime. In the eponymous, award-winning documentary about the party, Tsang’s visual narrative paints how its young creators, wide-eyed and inexperienced, had to straddle the complex intersections of class, gender and race. “I think Wildness was the origin of major artistic development for all of us,” Tsang once said in a Rhizome interview. “We started out as amateurs still learning how to use our equipment and we eventually got more sophisticated with our ideas and skills.”

 
 
 

Creative Time: Bring Down the Walls

In May of 2018, Creative Time, in partnership with The Fortune Society, artist Phil Collins, and over 100 collaborators, presented Bring Down The Walls, a three-part public art project which turned an unconventional lens on the prison industrial complex through house music and nightlife. The project consisted of a communal space that functioned as a school by day and dance club by night, as well as a benefit album of classic house tracks re-recorded by formerly incarcerated vocalists and electronic musicians. Bring Down The Walls was free and open to the public each Saturday in May starting May 5 at Firehouse, Engine Company 31, a historic, decommissioned fire station in Lower Manhattan.

Bring Down The Walls pulled into focus the dichotomy between the sense of freedom, unity, and joy ingrained in house music, and the punitive control and violence—physical, mental, and emotional—perpetuated by the U.S. prison system. Set up as a deeply collaborative framework defined by the impulse to meet, listen, and cultivate more comprehensive knowledge about mass incarceration, the project was inspired by the ethos of early house music venues, which often functioned as hubs of political engagement as much as spaces of personal liberation and collective transcendence. 

At the heart of Bring Down The Walls was the pairing of knowledge built from research with that which has been gained by experience, including a wide range of views and a focus on prison abolition. Daytime programs were primarily led by people who have experienced the system and those working to change it, drawing powerful new connections on the issues and campaigns around decarceration, immigrant rights, ending cash bail, closing jails and prisons, and improving reentry. By night, this communal space also convened DJs, musicians, performers, and other influential contributors to New York City’s current club scene, acknowledging the history of nightlife as a haven of abandon and temporary relief, in which divisions of race, class, gender, and sexuality are often crossed in unexpected ways.

The unusual connection between house music and incarceration comes from years in which Collins worked with men serving long-term sentences at Sing Sing in New York. Structured around the formation of an unofficial band, sessions repeatedly turned to a canon of dance floor anthems, which were a formative influence for both the band members and Phil. Deepening this personal connection is the historical context, as in 1980s the exponential rise of mass incarceration in the U.S. coincided with the emergence of a new dance sound coming out of the communities disproportionately targeted by regressive criminal justice policies. This experimental electronic music soon took over downtown Chicago, Detroit, New York, and Manchester in England, where Collins grew up, as well as, in quick succession, the rest of the world.

In the artist’s words, “All social interactions are inherently political. Historically, house culture has often been a mode of resistance, opening up new understandings of community and solidarity. Its radical proposition of simply being together offers another way of engaging the conversation around the prison industrial complex, which sentences discriminately and disproportionately, but impacts us all. Even after their release, people remain confined and punished by invisible barriers — physical, emotional, economic. The very real human cost of systemic regressive policies comes sharply into focus through sharing time and space, and in direct exchange with one another.

Photos by Peter Koloff and Akintola Hanif

 
 

 

interlude

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Section 5 - Artist as Pollinator; Artists as Vector; Artist as Archivist; Collapsing the Artist / Curator Binary; Flat Ontologies; The Valley of Disinterest; Little a art

The extent and diffusion of meaning in capital A Art has swollen the word beyond the limits of its capaciousness. It’s too large and unwieldy of a term to use with any accuracy. It’s burst into a quantum field of little a art that’s inextricably linked with everything else and persists in it’s manifold latent potentiality. It waits to be activated by configurations of subjects, objects and times. This is a concept towards an art that is always present in it’s capacity and can be accessed by anyone. An abundant art, an art without scarcity. An art as disposition, awareness, sensibility, tuning, sharing.

There’s a paper (or liquid crystal) thin and crumbling ledge of attention that backs up to the interminable deluge of mediated world phenomena. Media flashes for an instant before dropping off and disappearing into the Valley of Disinterest where it’s ostensibly lost and useless. There’s a persistent need to recuperate media from the Valley of Disinterest and create evolving archives on themes of significance. This process creates a new need or role that practices traits previously associated with artists, curators, teachers, archivists, activists, journalists and editors- or rather a synthesis of new media practices with enduring and emerging projects and desires.

Engaging the work of Anton Vidokle, e-flux, Tania Bruguera, Arte Util, Hans Ulrich Obrist, Kenneth Goldsmith, McKenzie Wark, Taryn Simon, Broomberg and Chanarin, Creative Time, and others.

 
 

The Tania Bruguera archive of projects and works that fit into her framework of Arte Util or Useful Art

 
 
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General Intellects
Twenty-One Thinkers for the Twenty First Century
by McKenzie Wark

What happened to the public intellectuals that used to challenge and inform us? Who is the Sartre or De Beauvoir of the internet age? General Intellects argues we no longer have such singular figures, but there are, instead, general intellects whose writing could, if read collectively, explain our times. Covering topics such as culture, politics, work, technology, and the Anthropocene, each chapter is a concise account of an individual thinker, providing useful context and connections to the work of the others. McKenzie Wark’s distinctive readings are appreciations, but are nonetheless critical of how neoliberal universities militate against cooperative intellectual work that endeavors to understand and also change the world.

The thinkers included are Amy Wendling, Kojin Karatani, Paolo Virno, Yann Moulier Boutang, Maurizio Lazzarato, Franco “Bifo” Berardi, Angela McRobbie, Paul Gilroy, Slavoj Žižek, Jodi Dean, Chantal Mouffe, Wendy Brown, Judith Butler, Hiroki Azuma, Paul B. Préciado, Wendy Chun, Alexander Galloway, Timothy Morton, Quentin Meillassoux, Isabelle Stengers, and Donna Haraway.

 
 
 
 
 

 

interlude